Six steps to tune your personal performance

By John Langhorne/Consulting

January is over, so much for all those New Year’s resolutions, except those you didn’t tell anyone about, more about that later. Consider the following key behaviors: listening,  feedback, conversation, creativity, sleep and personal goal setting.

Positive psychology tells us that to improve our performance we should focus on and build from our strengths. One of the unfortunate things about human behavior is that it tends to drift. Just as a machine that runs continuously needs to be re-calibrated periodically, so do our behavioral styles. Here are some areas where you may benefit from some personal tuning.

First and foremost, how are your listening skills? Most of us seem to suffer from the American hurry-up malady, not a bad thing when you observe performance in some other cultures. Ignoring people has an extremely negative effect on their performance. Listening
respectfully is one of the most positive interpersonal behaviors. Ask yourself these questions: Am I interrupting? Am I missing the main point? Are people feeling not so good after visiting with me? Although a proactive style is optimal, there is evidence that conversations initiated by others, if listened to carefully, can be the most rewarding.

For more information, read this New York Times article, “The Science and Art of Listening.”

Some years ago, a fellow named Blanchard wrote a book titled “The One Minute Manager.” The book has sold more than 18 million copies, yes, that’s 18 million. Basically what the book says is to give your employees timely, accurate feedback and make most of it positive. But don’t forget the power of learning from mistakes. Although positive feedback
is important, use negative when appropriate. People who receive only positive feedback tend to not be very adaptive, particularly when having to confront and manage adversity. Some say this is a characteristic of many GenYs, resulting from the self-esteem movement whereby no one ever loses or is last.

Read more at The New York Times, “”Conquering Your Fear of Giving Feedback.”

The very best form of communication between two people is a face-to-face conversation where both parties are fully engaged. If the topic is important, follow-up with a note that reiterates the content of the communication.

Much is being written about how using mobile technology to exchange information is not communication, only a connection. To mistake an e-exchange for a relationship is a serious matter. I have been collecting impressions from people in organizations for a long time. When email became dominant, the level of complaints skyrocketed.

Now comments are about people who seem to be online all the time. Sherry Turkle, in a provocative article titled “The Flight From Conversation” in the New York Times says, “Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone.”

Read more on “The Flight From Conversation.”

This is deeply troubling since evidence about creativity, personal productivity, effective management and leadership show personal reflection, spending time in your head, is an  essential ingredient in all these endeavors.

For more, read my previous column, “Reflecting on the power of solitude.”

Perhaps one of the best ways to improve your performance is to get a good night’s sleep. Are you getting about seven or eight hours of sound, restorative sleep every night?  Neuroscientists have been studying sleep for several decades and much is known about normal and abnormal sleep. The most important fact is that sleep deprivation has many  negative cognitive, emotional and physical effects. In fact, research on animals shows that if completely deprived of sleep, some will die. What is most important to know is that sleep  goes through a series of 90- to 110-minute cycles and in one of these of these cycles, where
rapid eye movement (REM), loss of muscle tone and dreaming occur, the brain appears to  be actively processing. No one is sure what the brain is processing but the REM stage, seems to be the critical element of sleep.

For more on sleep, read “Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.”

Throughout the years, I have learned never to be pushed into decisions without sleeping on them. A wondrous thing; the human mind working for us even when we are sleeping.

With regard to personal goal setting, as in New Year resolutions: for some time now I have noticed when people broadcast their personal goals, they don’t seem to be as successful as those who you don’t hear from. Research shows this to be the case. If you can spare three  minutes, check out a TED video titled “Keep Your Goals To Yourself.” Good information
and a good chuckle.

Choose one or two of these behaviors and go to work on an improved you.